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Never on my Knees

bookrev: Never on my Knees by John T. Webb

Never on my Knees5 stars: Great historical fiction of the Choctaw Indians

Never On My Knees is a riveting story of a clan of Choctaw Indians, from their time in Mississippi on the banks of the Yazoo River, through movement to the Indian Territory, up through the Civil War. The story follows the clan of Joseph Kiamichi, his sister Misty and various other relations and friends through these temultuous times, showing character through prejudice, war and forced movement.

Author John T. Webb has mixed excellent historical research (including places and people) with the ficticious Kiamichi clan to present a realistic picture of these struggles. The characters are strong and well developed, with a devotion to their Choctaw heritage even as their bloodlines become mixed and their nation becomes torn apart.

My family has Choctaw heritage somewhere in the past, and I highly recommend this story to anyone who is seeking a novel that gives a good representation of their times from 1830 (when the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek stated the Choctaw’s movement to the Indian Territory through the Trail of Tears) through to the Civil War, and the Choctaw’s decision to side with the Confederacy. This is also an excellent novel for historical fiction fans. My one regret with the novel is that it did not portray the trip through the Trail of Tears, choosing rather to portray the Kiamichi clan outside the government registration and movement program.

If the author or anyone associated with his publishing company reads this review, I would appreciate it if they would get in contact with me through this website.

bookrev: The Thousand Fold Thought by R. Scott Bakker

3 stars: Beautifully written, but you have to study the history for this 3rd one

The first two books in this series (The Darkness That Comes Before and The Warrior Propeht) really set the bar high: the were beautifully written, featured several complex characters and an excellent major plot with several sub plot lines. They were a little complicated in the “world” created by the books, but not deterringly so.

This one, though just as beautifully written, was a struggle to get through. Not nearly as good as the first two, and, because of the fast ending, seems like it was written under a severe deadline.

The plot obviously continues from the second book (and, people with poor memories like me will appreciate the 20+ page “what has come before” summary at the beginning of the book) where Kellhus the Dunyain has assumed control of the Holy War through logic and manipulation. Achamian is helping him, but struggling with that path, in no small part because Kellhus has taken Achamian’s wife as his own (when Achamian was feared dead). Cnaiur believes himself mad or possesed or both, and follows his own path to redemption. All head for Shimeh, the Holy City now held by heathens, where Kellhus has been “summoned” to see and sent to assasinate his father.

The characters again are beautifully wrought and described, especially Achamian, Esmet and Cnaiur.

Three major complaints. Bakker asks his readers not only to enter his world, but to study it. The PB version has 100 pages of Glossary out of a 500 page book, and in some of the passages, it feels like you’ve got to read them all to understand what is happening. Very confusing at times.

Second, the end flys by. A lot of action and things tied up in a very short period of time.

Third, it’s not an obvious end. There are many questions left unanswered, obviously a fourth book or a new series coming next.

I will continue reading Mr. Bakker’s works, because he tackles a lot, presents a new version of fantasy writing different than most, and I learn a lot from his style of writing. But he set the bar high with the first two novels, and this one, while still good, is not at their level.

bookrev: Up Country by Nelson DeMille

5 stars: Great scenery, good story, good characters; fascinating picture of Vietnam

As a writer, every so often I come across a novel that either makes me realize how much I have to improve, or makes me want to throw in the towel in awe. Up Country by Nelson DeMille makes me want to do both. For 800+ paperback pages, I was all his; except for two slightly long descriptive chapters, I didn’t want to put it down.

The story of Paul Brenner, Vietnam veteran, recently retired from CID (the military investigative arm, where he did most of his damage in Mr. DeMille’s earlier novel The General’s Daughter) sends Paul back to Vietnam for a third time (after two tours of military duty during the Vietnam war) to investigate a possible murder of a US Military officer by another, witnessed by a North Vietnam soldier. As Paul revisits and sometimes relives his past experiences in Vietnam, he learns more about the murder, and it, and his “assigned companion” Susan Weber, are not what they seem. He travels from Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, to Hue near the DNZ, into NW North Korea near Laos, and onto Hanoi, learning about himself, Susan and the objects of his investigation.

The novel is a murder investigation, a Vietnam war retrospective, a travelogue, a love story and an adventure all rolled seamlessly together. Though the end of the novel happens too quickly, with many questions left, it is an enjoyable read.

Highly recommended.

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